Defined by its square shape, thick crust and Wisconsin brick cheese, Detroit-style pizza has gained a fair amount of popularity over the years. Joe Maino, the creator of Slice Etiquette, is bringing the fresh taste of Detroit-style pizza to Ann Arbor’s west side through his pop-up, which was held for the first time on Dec. 30, and then again on Jan. 13 and Jan. 27. The pop-ups took place at HOMES Campus, a venue that regularly hosts pop-up restaurants on Jackson Plaza.
Born and raised in eastern Detroit, Maino told The Michigan Daily he grew up eating the square-shaped Detroit-style pizza at classic franchises: Buddy’s Pizza and Cloverleaf Pizza. Maino said though pizza has always been his favorite food, his interest in the Detroit-style grew in early 2013 when he heard about Shawn Randazzo, founder of Detroit Style Pizza Company. A St. Clair Shores native, Randazzo was crowned the World Champion Pizza Maker of the Year in 2012.
“On the internet I came across Shawn, and I was like, ‘Oh wow, the pizza that we have where I grew up is special,’” Maino said. “I just started delving more into this authentic Detroit-style pizza that he started talking about, which is basically the style of pizza that belonged to Buddy’s Pizza and Cloverleaf Pizza.”
In 2013, Maino said he also worked at a Wetzel’s Pretzels franchise where he and his co-workers made pretzel dough all day. Maino highlighted this job for giving him the hands-on experience he needed for his career in pizza making.
“Sometimes we would make pizzas at Wetzel’s just for ourselves out of the pretzel dough,” Maino said. “That’s kind of how (the story of me) making pizza at home started.”
In spite of multiple failed attempts at making round pizzas at home, Maino said he researched Detroit-style pizza as a whole, as well as Randazzo’s methods. After discovering that Randazzo had started a pizza making training program, Maino said he decided to enroll in Randazzo’s courses.
“I (knew I) would love to take (Randazzo’s program) so I can learn a little bit more about how to make (Detroit) style authentically or as world-class as possible, since he was the world champion as far as that style went,” Maino said.
After completing the program, Maino said he eventually parted ways with Randazzo and found work at Zingerman’s Bakehouse as a baker. Jonathan Mills, who met Maino while working at Zingerman’s Bakehouse, explained to The Daily how he collaborated with Maino at Slice Etiquette as a chef, being one of four people to work in the pop-up’s kitchen.
“I’m a baker by trade,” Mills said. “Pizza is where baking and cooking kind of meet.”
Maino said Ann Arbor is the perfect place to test out his pizza while he searches for the ideal brick-and-mortar location.
“We’re looking pretty hard at locations as far as getting in somewhere and opening up, but we just don’t want to go into any little place now,” Maino said. “There’s plenty of places that come up all the time, but it’s just a matter of really capturing one or even finding one that truly captures us.”
For now, Maino said this pop-up grants him the chance to gauge public interest in his cuisine.
“Ann Arbor is just an amazing community,” Maino said. “There’s hardworking people here and because of the universities, there’s people from all around the world, so you have different palates that crave good food.”
Each of the pop-ups feature three slice varieties with Michigan-inspired slice names: the “Proper Roni,” which is topped with cup-and-char pepperoni, basil, parmesan and marinara; the “St. Clair Sausage,” which is topped with sausage, cherry peppers, caramelized onion, ricotta, basil, parmesan and marinara; and the “Ann Artichoke,” which is a vegetarian option topped with spinach, artichokes, banana peppers, parmesan and roasted garlic alfredo sauce. The menu also includes “Detroit Dipsticks,” an order of six cheesy breadsticks rubbed with housemade garlic butter and served with either ranch or marinara sauce.
Maino said the name of the pop-up was inspired by the sort of “slice etiquette” commonly found in pizzerias throughout New York, which involves reheating the slices even if the pizza just came out of the oven.
“My whole thing is that I’m just trying to operate and have a certain type of etiquette to how I serve a slice,” Maino said. “At the pop-up, we only serve slices, so I felt like that was pretty fitting.”
Maino discussed how he and his staff consider each slice as a gourmet entrée, an idea inspired by the artisan-inspired preparation of finishing each slice off with fresh sauce and the respective garnishes.
Engineering senior Sydney Swider, who attended the pop-up on Jan. 13, said in an interview with The Daily that the pizza surpassed her expectations.
“As compared to (other Detroit-style pizza), this definitely felt artisan, like there was definite thought that went into the amount of cheese, the amount of sauce and how thick the (crust) was,” Swider said. “As far as Detroit-style pizza goes, it is definitely up there. It was really good.”
Fans like Swider have another chance to enjoy Slice Etiquette this upcoming Friday, Jan. 27 from 5-9 P.M.
Daily News Editor Irena Li contributed reporting to this article.
Daily Staff Reporter Alexandra Vena can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.